From the staff development bookshelf: Engaging new nurses in the classroom

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 10, 2012

New graduates are learning to function within the controlled chaos of the hospital system while trying to master their new profession. Suddenly removing them from their new world and bringing them back into the classroom for eight-plus hours of education can be taxing. It is no wonder they look bored; therefore, it is important to keep them engaged.

Setting the stage
The first impression is the first step in engaging new graduates. This applies not only to you as the instructor, but also to the atmosphere of your classroom. The conditions of the classroom are just as important to the retention of information as the content itself. There is a reason learners seek out a library or quiet coffee shop to study rather than a noisy living room with the television on. Make sure the room is as conducive to learning as possible.

The following tips may appear straightforward, but they are often overlooked components to setting the stage:

  • Space is of utmost importance when preparing for a workshop, so reserve a room that is adequate in size. Too small a space will inhibit graduates' ability to interact and spread out, whereas too large a space can feel impersonal and restrain new nurses from asking questions, gaining clarification, or speaking up about needing assistance.
  • Distractions should be kept to a minimum. Though not all distractions can be avoided, steps can be made to reduce them as much as possible. Visit the room ahead of time and picture the day of class. Consider whether there will there be foot traffic through the room from nonparticipants or other activities happening next door that can create noise or distractions.
  • Environment is a powerful determinant of attendees' engagement. Keep the room temperature at a comfortable level; too hot and participants may become drowsy, too cold and they may become uncomfortable.
  • Engagement should be considered for all learning styles. Make sure everyone can see the front of the room. Visual learners are better able to interpret information through the instructor's body language and gestures. Learners also need to be able to see the speaker during equipment demonstrations. Make sure all the necessary supplies are available and on the tables or desks. Kinetic learners may benefit from items to keep their hands busy, such as pens, paper, pipe cleaners, clay, and other small items that will help focus their attention on the presentations. 
  • Tempo prevents boredom and ensures engagement. With a day-long workshop, vary the  mode of instruction every 20 minutes or so to reinforce learning, even for those who would rather simply listen to lectures (Fry, Ketteridge, & Marshall, 2008b).
  • Logistics such as Internet connection, slides, audio aids, and overhead projectors should be checked to ensure they are working properly before the class begins. Remember, adults value their time. Do not waste it by discovering in mid-presentation that your video clip does not play, your speakers are not working, or an overhead projection light is burnt out. Check with additional presenters prior to the presentation date so that you have all their necessary equipment as well.

Book excerpt adapted from Nurse Residency Program Builder by Jim Hansen, MSN, RN-BC.

Readers of Staff Development Weekly receive a 10% discount on this book! Just enter source code EB102930A at checkout. Click here to visit

Most Popular